Funding: Supported by The Baker Foundation and the Victorian Government's Operational Infrastructure Support Program.
Comorbid depression and anxiety in childhood and adolescent anorexia nervosa: Prevalence and implications for outcome
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011
© 2011 The Australian Psychological Society
Special Issue: Children and Health Psychology
Volume 16, Issue 1, pages 15–24, March 2012
How to Cite
HUGHES, E. K. (2012), Comorbid depression and anxiety in childhood and adolescent anorexia nervosa: Prevalence and implications for outcome. Clinical Psychologist, 16: 15–24. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-9552.2011.00034.x
Conflict of interest: None.
- Issue published online: 14 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011
- Received 23 June 2011; accepted 25 September 2011.
- anorexia nervosa;
Background: Comorbid conditions are common in individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) and can raise issues for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment planning.
Methods: First, reported prevalence rates for depression and anxiety in children and adolescents with AN were reviewed. Diagnostic issues and current understanding of the temporal onset and interrelatedness of depression, anxiety, and AN were discussed. Second, existing research on the implications of comorbid depression and anxiety for outcomes related to AN was reviewed with the aim of identifying whether, and to what degree, comorbidity may impact outcomes including recovery. Finally, implications for clinical practice and recommendations for future research were outlined.
Results: Although reported rates vary, comorbid depression and anxiety disorders are common in children and adolescents with AN. While research suggests that depression tends to onset subsequent to AN and abates with weight restoration, anxiety tends to pre-date eating disorder onset and to persist post recovery. There is currently insufficient evidence, particularly with children and adolescents, to conclude that these conditions necessarily disrupt engagement in treatment or foreshadow a poorer prognosis.
Conclusions: Continued research is needed in understanding how depression and anxiety may relate to eating disorder presentation in the younger years and potentially impact on the treatment process.